Favorite Wine Regions

By Ryan Snyder on June 26, 2006

Category: Winegeeks Opinions

This is the first of a series of monthly articles that will be based on a question directed at each of the writers at The question will encourage each of the writers to provide their opinion, with the hopes of showing the various sides to the world of wine.

We recently asked all of the writers to pitch in a paragraph or two about their favorite wine regions. The first thing you’ll notice is that each of the writers chose a European region. Speaking on behalf of the staff, we actually do appreciate New World wine regions in North America, South America, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. But we all seem to have a preference for the Old World regions of Europe, each of which creates a style of wine that depicts the region that it comes from.

What is your favorite wine region?

E.S. Brown: Piedmont, Italy

There are regions all over the world that make fine wine. You can even find quite a few in Italy, but none are like Piedmont, and in particular the valley and hills of Barolo. Visually stunning, it is a sea of green vines and brown earth that covers the rolling hills and small mountains. Whitecaps of wineries and medieval towns dot the landscape, each reaching out above the vines as if the populace had to come up for air beneath the weight of the vines.

It is a land of farmers. Here you will not find the grand estates of Tuscany, or the excess of Bordeaux. Here you will find people who work the earth and bathe in its riches. Food and wine are more important than Porsches and Chateaux. And what wines they produce! The lush whites from Arneis, the fruity and friendly Dolcettos, the dusty and daring Barberas, and of course the power, grace and charm that is Barolo. There are no wines that can compare. One would have to find a way to combine the terroir and cru vineyards of the best in Burgundy with the fruit and liveliness of the Syrahs of the Rhône and fuse them to the backbone of a fine Bordeaux.

Matthew Citriglia: Champagne, France

I have long said my preferred beverage of choice is Champagne! The name of the beverage is synonymous with the name of the region in France that it comes from. The tiny festive bubbles have a way of melting the stress of the day away, and with the diverse selection of grower bubblies now available I can find a wine to suit any mood or food. If my frame of mind calls for a vibrant bracer to get the night started, then I will reach for a youthful Champagne heavy on Pinot Meunier. This lip smackin’ fruit-driven style also works well with any dish that throws off a bit of heat, as well as a bowl full of popcorn for that Sunday night movie. For sushi and shellfish, I’ll grasp for a Chardonnay-based bubbly with a slightly higher dosage. If the main course includes wild game like ostrich, I'll look for a more elegant Pinot Noir-based wine, while a flavorful NY strip demands a powerful well-aged Pinot Noir-dominated bubbly. Ah… Champagne! Prozac that compliments food!

Scott Frank: Loire Valley, France

Choosing a favorite wine region is a bit like choosing your favorite musician. For instance, there’s no doubt that Miles Davis or Duke Ellington or John Coltrane are arguably the best Jazz musicians, but they’re not necessarily my favorite. It takes something else to be your favorite. So it is with wine. I can’t deny that Burgundy may create the best wine in the world, but at the moment my favorite wines come from the Loire. From the unsung Chenin Blanc, which may be every bit as transparent as Pinot Noir in expressing terroir, to the tooth-cutting Sauvignon Blancs that summer just isn’t complete without, I’m just a fan. There’s Muscadet, one of the best values in wine and Cabernet Franc, an oddity in that it just seems to resist all attempts at becoming a “modern” wine. When I drink wines from the Loire I feel like I’m stumbling upon some rare Jazz gem that was only released on vinyl and remains largely overlooked. The Loire is like the Gary Bartz of wines.

Dana Pickell: Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany

While there are numerous wine regions that I could categorize as “my favorite” (depending on the day and which wines I’ve been obsessing over most in recent weeks), there is one I always go back to. It’s a region that is strikingly beautiful from village to village, and produces wine in one of the most treacherous growing regions in the world. Tightly winding rivers that dissipate into mere streams, steeply graded mineral-ridden slopes that crumble into the water below, a landscape dotted with castles and forests. The weather moves from bitterly cold to bone-warming as the seasons change, and the vines react to both the cold and the sun in a positive way. The icy winds concentrate grape sugars resulting in some of the world’s most sumptuous sweet wines, and the sun’s rays reflecting off the meandering rivers help encourage a ripeness that is balanced by perfect acidity. Riesling is the noble varietal of my favorite wine region, producing what I consider the most layered, complex white wines in existence. When looking at a map, this region runs southwest from Luxembourg towards the Rhine river, and the land is dominated by the ever-twisting Mosel river. Together with its minor rivers, the region that I am so fond of is Mosel-Saar-Ruwer in western Germany.

Jeremy Slagle: Burgundy, France

If I were stranded on a desert island, that happened to be equipped with a humidity- and temperature-controlled wine cellar and fine lead-crystal stemware, and I had to choose just one region’s wines to drink, it would be Burgundy. In my opinion there is no other region where terroir is more expressive in the glass. So with just two principle grape varietals (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir), Burgundy is capable of producing an impressive diversity of wine styles. The whites and the reds can be fruity and approachable or they can be intense and earthy. The whites from the Côte de Beaune and Chablis are some of my favorites in the world; lean and limey Chablis or stellar and majestic Meursault and Montrachet. The reds from the Côte d’Or offer a spectrum of sensations. You can find floral and aromatic reds (Volnay, Chorey-Lès-Beaune), berry-bomb jammy Pinots (Pommard) and luscious and complex, full-bodied wines (Vosne-Romanée, Vougeot and Gevrey-Chambertin). With such a repertoire as this I would want for nothing, so long as my desert island is also equipped with a wine opener.

Ryan Snyder: Tuscany, Italy

As cliché as it may sound, Tuscany is my favorite wine region. In 2002, I wandered to the small town of Montalcino and had an epiphany over a glass of 1997 Brunello di Montalcino in a local enoteca. Sometimes an experience with an enigmatic wine puts everything in perspective, and my life hasn’t been the same since. Besides my obvious emotional attachment, the region is home to a number of amazing appellations including the historic Chianti region, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, which gets my vote as one of the world’s best bang-for-buck appellations, and the refreshing summer quaff Vernaccia di San Gimigniano. Not to mention, Supertuscan wines made from Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah are taking the region’s wine making potential to a new level. And don’t even get me started on wine pairing with Tuscan cuisine…